Tuesday, September 26, 2017
General Dwight D. Eisenhower....his legacy was simple: "He got the job done"
General Dwight David Eisenhower was the Commander, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in Europe in WWII. He was responsible for putting together a diverse coalition to execute a successful invasion of Europe, with the ultimate goal of defeating Hitler's Germany.
It would have no doubt been easier for him to just appoint his fellow American Generals and Admirals and charge them with carrying out his orders, but he (and US President Franklin Roosevelt) knew there were allied "national sensitivities" that needed to be massaged. While Eisenhower sat at the head of the table, Brits Bernard Montgomery, Bertram Ramsay, and Trafford Leigh-Mallory were respectively in charge of the actual land, sea, and air components of Operation Overlord.
Stay with me here...
Eisenhower knew how to play the diplomat. Of course he had his opinions, but he often listened to the little voice in his head that told him "No, don't say it." He knew that to say what he really wanted to could sometimes be counter-productive. The ultimate goal, defeating Hitler, was of paramount importance. He was focused on the prize.
Eventually the Allies committed 39 divisions to the Battle of Normandy: 22 American, 12 British, three Canadian, one Polish, and one French, plus a scattering of Belgians, Dutch, Czech, and a few others, totaling over a million troops, all under British field commanders, who answered to an American. Somehow Eisenhower managed to keep them all pulling in the same direction. It was a constant exercise of give and take. He gave in on a few internal battles along the way, acquiescing to one ego or another to keep them on board, BUT HE WON THE WAR. Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 8, 1945.
Every good leader knows it's pointless to win battles if you somehow manage to lose the war. And they know building coalitions offers the best chance to win wars. It's a timeless, winning strategy. They also know alienating potential allies seldom gets you where you want to go.